South Korean Leader Receives Hero's Welcome at White House

By Geracimos, Ann | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 10, 1998 | Go to article overview

South Korean Leader Receives Hero's Welcome at White House


Geracimos, Ann, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Special touches were on the menu for both President Clinton and President Kim Dae-jung at last night's White House state dinner honoring the 74-year-old South Korean hero and his wife, Lee Hee-ho.

It was the third dinner the Clintons have hosted on behalf of a Korean president since 1992 and one of the most serious and purposeful of the present administration.

"The story of your life is almost unbelievable," said Mr. Clinton in his toast, recounting times when Mr. Kim was nearly executed and denied rightful office by his foes. "You remind us that at the end of all the trials there is victory for the human spirit."

Mr. Kim in turn told of his "living 40 years under surveillance" - six in prison, 10 in exile - as the personification of the "Korean people's desire for democracy." He said he "chose the United States for my first state visit not only because Americans saved my life more than once, but, more importantly, . . . I want our partnership to grow even stronger."

The South Korean president called for "a more flexible policy" regarding relations with North Korea. "We need to promote mutual continuing cooperation. . . . In addition, such cooperation is essential for us as Korea struggles to overcome the most serious economic crisis in our history."

The 200 guests included six senators and House members, as well as Mr. Clinton's longtime confidant Vernon E. Jordan Jr., who testified earlier in the day for the fifth time before a Whitewater grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky matter.

"Are you going to talk to us?" Mr. Jordan was asked as he breezed past reporters.

"No," he said firmly, but with a smile.

Other guests included Se Ri Pak, a Korean-American professional golfer; Haeng Ung Lee of Little Rock, Ark., a martial arts grand master, and his wife, Sun Cha; and Dean Smith, former head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, accompanied by his wife, Dr. Linnea Weblemoe Smith.

Athletes have not been prominent among guests at recent state and official White House dinners. Mr. Lee and Mr. Smith were invited specifically at Mr. Clinton's request, according to White House Social Secretary Capricia Marshall.

"We really didn't do an outreach to Hollywood," she volunteered at an afternoon preview of table settings in the East Room.

Guests from the art world included violinist Sarah Chang, actress-comedian Margaret Cho, fashion designer Gemma Kahng and pioneering video artist Nam June Palk.

Mr. Clinton expressly wished to extend the invitation to several academic, labor and human rights experts, Mrs. Marshall said - doubtless to reflect Mr. Kim's special interest in these fields.

They included the Rev. Chai H. Ahn and his wife, Sun Duk Ahn, medical missionaries; the Rev. Pharis J. Harvey, executive director of the International Labor Rights Fund, and his wife, Jane Hull Harvey, assistant general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.

Soprano Hei-Kyung Hong, a Korean-American graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, entertained at Mr. Kim's request.

Unusual among the presents ordinarily exchanged between presidential couples was a framed message in Mr. Kim's own hand in Korean for Mr. Clinton. Translated into English, it read, "We should respect heaven and love people."

****BOX

GUEST LIST FOR THE STATE DINNER

President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton

Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore

Kim Dae-jung, president of South Korea, and Mrs. Kim

Lee Kyu-sung, minister of finance and economy

Park Chung-soo, minister of foreign affairs and trade

Park Sang-cheon, minister of justice

Lee Hong-koo, ambassador to the United States, and Mrs. Lee

Han Duck-soo, minister of state for trade

Gen. …

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